Brief Fact Summary. Plaintiff filed an original complaint alleging that an arrest made on November 24, 1964, deprived him of rights secured by the United States Constitution. Plaintiff was arrested after three private detectives (Defendants), observed Plaintiff at an intersection speaking with a man on a motorcycle. Their observations caused a false report to be made to county police that Plaintiff was falsely representing himself as a police officer. As a result of the report, four county police officers (Defendants), arrested Plaintiff for impersonating a government official and charged him with unlawful use of weapons and resisting arrest. Although Plaintiff was initially convicted, the conviction was later reversed on appeal for insufficient evidence.
Synopsis of Rule of Law. An order of a district court, which dismisses a complaint for failure to state a claim, but which does not specify that the dismissal is without prejudice, is res judicata as to the then existing claim.
Issue. Is Plaintiff barred from litigating a claim that is identical to a previously litigated claim, but now includes an averment that arrest was made without probable cause, under the doctrine of res judicata?
Held. Plaintiff’s claim that it was attempting to make in the first instance, but did not do so, is barred by the doctrine of res judicata because the original order did not contain a clause indicating that the action was dismissed without prejudice. As a result, Plaintiff is barred from relitigating the claim that the arrest was made without probable cause.
Rule 41(b) dismissals are considered adjudications on the merits for res judicata purposes because the rule applies in situations in which the defendant must incur the inconvenience of preparing to meet the merits because there is no initial bar to the Court's reaching them.View Full Point of Law